A Study of Conceptual and Mathematical Knowledge in Introductory Mechanics Courses



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Much of current physics education research involves the use of the Force Concept Inventory, commonly referred to as the FCI. The FCI is a conceptual inventory examination used to study student comprehension and learning of introductory mechanics. These studies often focus on comparisons between increases in performance on pre-course and post-course FCI results for two statistically significant samples; one using a traditional course structure or teaching method and the other using different techniques.

This study contains a complete statistical analysis of the FCI in order to determine its validity as a metric for measuring course success and student learning within the context of introductory mechanics courses. All the data is from students enrolled in one particular variety of Physics 218 at Texas A&M University during the Fall 2011 semester. In particular, the analysis is done for a single statistically significant sample in order to more closely examine the relationships between the FCI, mathematics skills, and student performance. It is shown that the FCI is not a valid metric for measuring student learning within an introductory physics course and that incoming mathematics skills play a critical role in student performance.